Preps, not pros, merit praise

While many of my friends were celebrating the NBA championship of the LA Lakers and the NHL title of the Pittsburgh Penguins the other day, I felt nothing more than melancholy.

The root of my depression came not from the professional success, but from the lack of area high school teams winning Ohio titles this spring.

You see, to this writer, the purity of high school sports, the great academic work and the sportsmanship shown on the prep fields are more pleasurable to watch and reward than the professional games that many of my peers enjoy.

It is for this reason that I took great enjoyment sitting at the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Northeast District Board’s awards banquet Tuesday in Fairlawn.

Here were 36 recent high school graduates and their families to receive college scholarships and recognition from the board.

These are the winners I choose to praise — young adults who faced stern challenges and have made the right choices. High school athletes who saw sports as a way of improving their education and development.

There are over 250 high schools represented in the Northeast District and the board had received 175 applications for the coveted scholarships.

Among the 36 award winners were 11 from the Mahoning Valley including two who briefly reflected on being selected.

“I was really excited; it’s a tremendous honor,” Kelcie Herberger of Cardinal Mooney said about being notified.

All she did to distinguish herself to the awards committee was to earn seven varsity athletic letters and rack up a 3.85 GPA. A future teacher, and perhaps softball coach, her father Bob played quarterback at Liberty High 30 years ago.

Her mother, Beth, explained Kelcie turned down college athletic scholarship money so she could remain in the area.

“She’s a real homebody; she cried for a week when her brother went away to the University of Findlay.”

Going away to Ohio State is Ethan Kuszmaul who graduated from Howland High first in his class of 240 with a 4.0 GPA and seven athletic letters.

“I was really happy to win this statewide honor. This is an accomplishment I’m proud of,” Kuszmaul said.

He’s a future engineer.

Celebrating the future is the unwritten mission of the board. They know that by investing in the top students and best athletes now, the interest will be repaid by our next generation of leaders.

Among the winners was Emily Potter who collected 15 letters (yes, 15 varsity letters) and a 3.65 GPA at LaBrae. She’ll study biology at Toledo and will likely add the title doctor before her last name in 2018.

Two future YSU students, Robert Devita and Callie Garland, both finished first in their class at McDonald High with 4.0 GPAs and earned a combined 13 letters. Their futures are as bright as the noontime sun.

Need more reasons to celebrate premier high school athletes?

Lacey Sanor won nine letters and put together a 3.6 GPA at West Branch while Lowellville’s Anthony Schiraldi was first in his class, had a 4.0 GPA, and lettered seven times.

Also receiving scholarships were Dana Webb of Salem (4.0 GPA, seven letters); Maggie Miller of United (fourth in her class and eight letters); Philip Bennett of Salem and Josh Selway of Leetonia.

Sitting in this group of intelligent over-achievers, I couldn’t help but contrast them with the failed professional (and college) athletes who chose to not remain responsible members of our society.

Think I will ever again cheer for Alex Rodriguez, Michael Vick, Donte’ Stallworth, Maurice Clarett or Manny Ramirez?

No, but you can give me a high school athlete that understands that hard work in the classroom is more important than hard work in the weight room. That’s my superstar.

On the college level, Alabama was just placed on probation for major violations and both the football and men’s basketball programs at Southern Cal are under investigation. I gave up on those sort of schools years ago.

And, the Memphis men’s basketball team is being investigated for the time Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls played there.

So excuse me when I say that my teams are the Cardinals, the Tigers, the Vikings and the Rockets (as in Mooney, Howland, LaBrae and Lowellville and not the professional variety.)

And thanks to the board for honoring our super students and for giving this writer a Media Service Award plaque, an act that was entirely unnecessary.

XSullivan has been on The Vindicator staff for 27 years.